Sustainability science

Sustainability science has emerged strongly in the 21st century as a new academic discipline. However, as taught in academic institutions, and variously defined, the distinction between sustainability, sustainable development, and sustainability science is not clear. In many ways the new title reflects dissatisfaction with the adequacy and perceived politicisation of “sustainable development” and a desire to give the generalities and broad-based approach of “sustainability” a stronger analytic and scientific underpinning. [ Komiyama,H. , Takeuchi,K. 2006. Sustainability science: building a new discipline. "Sustainability Science" 1:1–6. ]

Sustainability science is not yet an autonomous field or discipline, but rather a vibrant arena that is bringing together scholarship and practice, global and local perspectives from north and south, and disciplines across the natural and social sciences, engineering, and medicine [ Clark, W.C., & Dickson, N. M. 2003. Sustainability science: The emerging research program. "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA" 100(14): 8059-8061. ] — it can be usefully thought of as neither ‘‘basic’’ nor ‘‘applied’’ research. It is a field defined by the problems it addresses rather than by the disciplines it employs; it serves the need for advancing both knowledge and action by creating a dynamic bridge between the two. [Clark, W.C. 2007. Sustainability Science: A room of its own. "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science" 104: 1737-1738; published online on February 6, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0611291104 ]


Sustainability science derives its impetus from the concept of sustainable development proposed by the "Brundtland Commission of the World Commission on Environment and Development" in 1987, which defined sustainable development as:

‘‘"development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"’’. [ [ Our Common Future, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development] World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Published as Annex to General Assembly document A/42/427]
However, as the mission for an academic discipline this definition does not seem to capture the wide-ranging complexity of the new science. A more appropriate definition for academia comes from the "Sustainability Science Program" at Harvard's "Center for International Development" which seeks to: [ [] Sustainability Science Program at Harvard's Center for International Development ] :
“"advance basic understanding of the dynamics of human-environment systems; to facilitate the design, implementation, and evaluation of practical interventions that promote sustainability in particular places and contexts; and to improve linkages between relevant research and innovation communities on the one hand, and relevant policy and management communities on the other".”

A simpler definition is:

"Sustainability science focuses on the dynamic interactions between nature and society". [cite web|url=|title=Forum: science and innovation for sustainable development. Clark, W.C., & Dickson, N. M. 2003. Sustainability science: The emerging research program. "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA" 100(14): 8059-8061.|accessdate=2008-06-25]

Or as a call for action:

"it is the responsibility of sustainability science to map the broad, inclusive, and contradictory currents that humankind will need to navigate toward a just and sustainable future". [ [] Kates, R.W. & Parriss, T.M. 2003. Long term trends and a sustainability transition. "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA." 100(14): 8062-8067.]

It helps to think of sustainability science as the study of the theory, principles and practice of sustainability, sustainability governance as the process of sustainability implementation, and sustainability accounting as the information base that guides sustainability governance.

Broad objectives

The case for making research and development an important component of sustainable development strategies was embraced by many international scientific organizations in the mid-1980s, promoted by the Brundtland Commission's report "Our Common Future" in 1987, and enshrined in the "Agenda 21" action plan that emerged from the "United Nations Conference on Environment and Development" in 1992. [Forum: science and innovation for sustainable development|| Clark, W.C., & Dickson, N. M. 2003. Sustainability science: The emerging research program. "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA" 100(14): 8059-8061.] . By the time of the "World Summit on Sustainable Development", held in Johannesburg in 2002 a broad-based consensus had emerged.l Building on the United Nations "Millennium Declaration", these priorities were the "WEHAB" targets for water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity.

Apart from its action agenda, a number of recurring themes emerge from the various definitions and discussions of sustainability science in its attempt to provide a sound, evidence-based underpinning framework for decision-making. [ Komiyama,H. , Takeuchi,K. 2006. Sustainability science: building a new discipline. "Sustainability Science" 1:1–6. ] [Kates, R., Clark, W., Corell, R., Hall, J., Jaeger, C., Lowe, I., McCarthy, J., Schellnhuber, H., Bolin, B., Dickson, N., Faucheux, S., Gallopin, G., Grubler, A., Huntley, B., Jager, J., Jodha, N., Kasperson, R., Mabogunje, A., Matson, P., & Mooney, H. 2001. Sustainability science. "Science" 292(5517):641-642. ] [Clark, W.C. 2007. Sustainability Science: A room of its own. "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA" 104: 1737-1738; published online on February 6, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0611291104 ] [Reitan, P.H. 2005. Sustainability science – and what’s needed beyond science. "Sustainability: science, practice, policy." 1(1): e-journal (spring). ]

The broad themes addressed by sustainability science are listed below:

Knowledge structuring

For scholars, knowledge structuring is an essential first step in the effort to acquire a comprehensive view of sustainability issues. The problems that sustainability science confronts are not only complex but also interconnected: there is a need to clarify these relationships to respond to the needs of academia, industry and government.

Coordination of data

The key research and data for sustainability are sourced from many scientific disciplines, topics and organisations. A major part of knowledge structuring will entail building up the tools that provide an “overview” of what is known. Sustainability science can construct and coordinate a framework within which the vast amount of data can be easily accessed.

ustainability accounting

Management is based on measurement. Without sound scientific data that is simply and clearly presented for use by decision-makers it is not possible to make informed evidence-based management decisions. Sustainability studies have responded to this need by providing a plethora of indicators, benchmarks, audits, indexes and other metrics. Sustainability science will progressively refine these tools and the way they are coordinated and reported.

Multidisciplinary cooperation

Sustainability science attempts to understand the integrated “whole” of planetary and human systems. This program requires cooperation between scientific, social and economic disciplines, public and private sectors, academia and government . In short it requires a massive global cooperative effort and sustainability science must assist cross-disciplinary coordination.

ee also

* List of environmental organisations
* List of sustainability topics
* Glossary of environmental science


Further reading

* [ Forum for Science and Innovation in Sustainable Development] - lists key overview documents, key journals and Websites, as well as a list of research Institutions and their Programs.

* [ Sustainability: the journal of record]

* The Report of the Brundtland Commission, "Our Common Future", was published by Oxford University Press in 1987. The Report is available in HTML format with links to cited documents [ [ Our Common Future, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development] , World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Published as Annex to General Assembly document A/42/427, [ Development and International Co-operation: Environment] August 2, 1987. Retrieved, 2007.11.14] , and an easy-to-read full version is available at the [ Center for a World in Balance] . The full text of the [ Brundtland Report] , hosted by the Center for a World in Balance, can be downloaded as a scanned copy of the UN General Assembly document A/42/427 - a 25 Mbyte pdf file. The Report was welcomed by the General Assembly in its resolution 42/187 [United Nations. 1987. [ Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development] , General Assembly Resolution 42/187, 11 December 1987. Retrieved: 2007-11-14]

* "Sustainability Science" journal [ [] "Sustainability Science" journal ] Through the "Alliance for Global Sustainability", the "Massachusetts Institute of Technology", the "Swiss Federal Institute of Technology", and "Chalmers University of Technology" in Sweden have assisted in the establishment in 2006 of the journal Sustainability Science, based at The University of Tokyo.

* The "Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S)" [ [] The "Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S)" ] is a research network founded to serve as a global research and educational platform for sustainability scientists. Administered by The University of Tokyo and composed of eleven participating or cooperating institutions in Japan, IR3S is actively engaged in collaborative research with universities and institutes around the world. Sustainability science embraces a broad range of phenomena and principles; the goal of IR3S is to develop a transdisciplinary academic structure that joins the natural sciences with the humanities and social sciences in the cause of global sustainability .

* Proceedings of the "National Academy of Science Sustainability Science" web page. [ [] Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Sustainability Science web page. ]

* [ "Sustainability: science, practice, policy" e-journal]

* [ The "Forum on Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development"]

External links

* [ The National Academies’ Science and Technology for Sustainability Program]
* [ The Science and Development Network]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sustainability Science — Nachhaltigkeitswissenschaft (engl. Sustainability Science) ist eine neue angewandte Wissenschaft, die sich mit der Forschung und Umsetzung von Nachhaltigkeit, nachhaltiger Entwicklung und Nachhaltigkeitsstrategien auf lokaler, regionaler,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Convergence (sustainability science) — Convergence in sustainability sciences refers to mechanisms and pathways that lead towards sustainability with a specific focus on Equity within biological planetary limits . These pathways and mechanisms explicitly advocate equity and recognise… …   Wikipedia

  • Sustainability accounting — (also sometimes called sustainability metrics or sustainable development indicators) is a general term for the variety of measurements used as a quantitative basis for the informed management of environmental, social and economic sustainability.… …   Wikipedia

  • Sustainability — Achieving sustainability will enable the Earth to continue supporting human life as we know it. Blue Marble NASA composite images: 2001 (left), 2002 (right). See also: Sustainable development Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans,… …   Wikipedia

  • Sustainability governance — Main articles: sustainability, sustainability science, sustainability accounting, sustainable development Sustainability governance is the means by which the objectives of sustainability are put into effect the way they are managed.… …   Wikipedia

  • Sustainability/Old — Sustainability is a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. The term, in its environmental usage, refers to the potential longevity of vital human ecological support systems, such as the planet …   Wikipedia

  • Science in the Middle Ages — Science, and particularly geometry and astronomy, was linked directly to the divine for most medieval scholars. Since God created the universe after geometric and harmonic principles, to seek these principles was therefore to seek and worship God …   Wikipedia

  • Science Debate 2008 — is a grassroots campaign to call for a public debate in which the candidates for the 2008 U.S. presidential election discuss issues relating to the environment, health and medicine, and science and technology policy. The effort is being co… …   Wikipedia

  • Sustainability metrics and indices — Sustainable development indicators (SDI) have the potential to turn the generic concept of sustainability into action. Today, however, we are far from achieving this potential. We can t currently find a standardized set of indicators and several… …   Wikipedia

  • Science in the medieval Islamic world — This article is about the history of science in the Islamic civilization between the 8th and 16th centuries. For information on science in the context of Islam, see Islam and science …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.